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Eliphas Levi

Eliphas Lévi, born Alphonse Louis Constant, (1810 - 1875) was a French author and magician.

"Eliphas Lévi," the name under which he published his books, was his attempt to translate or transliterate his given names "Alphonse Constant" into Hebrew.

Lévi was the son of a shoemaker in Paris; he attended a seminary[?] and began to study to enter the Roman Catholic priesthood. However, while at the seminary he fell in love, and left without being ordained. He wrote a number of minor religious works and radical political tracts after leaving the seminary, to no great success.

In 1854, Lévi visited England, where he met the novelist Edward Bulwer-Lytton, who was interested in Rosicrucianism as a literary theme and was the president of a minor Rosicrucian order. With Lytton, Lévi conceived the notion of writing a treatise on magic. This appeared in 1855 under the title Dogme et Rituel de la Haute Magie, and was translated into English by Arthur Edward Waite as Transcendental Magic.

In 1861, he published a sequel, La Clef des Grandes Mystères (The Key to the Great Mysteries). Further magical works by Levi include Fables et Symboles (Stories and Images), 1862, and La Science des Esprits (The Science of Spirits), 1865. In 1868, he wrote Le Grand Arcane, ou l'Occultisme Dévoilé (The Great Secret, or Occultism Unveiled); this, however, was only published posthumously in 1898.

Lévi's version of magic became a great success, especially after his death. His magical teachings were free from obvious fanaticisms, even if they remained rather murky; he had nothing to sell, and did not pretend to be the inititate of some ancient or fictitious secret society. He incorporated the Tarot cards into his magical system, and as a result the Tarot has been an important part of the paraphernalia of Western magicians. He had a deep impact on the magic of the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn, and it was largely through this impact that Lévi is remembered as one of the key founders of the twentieth century revival of magic.

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